Colleen Mondor, at Chasing Ray, initiated a group blog trip to Australia. In honor of this, here is one of my Australian favorites.
Hill's End, by Ivan Southall (1962)
One of the best books in the "children surviving great personal hardship in the face of catastrophe with no grownup to help" genre is Hill's End, by Ivan Southall. In a small and incredibly isolated Australian logging town, a group of children and their school teacher set off into the hills to look for rock paintings. All the town's other residents, except for the logging foreman, leave town for the annual regional picnic, miles away. A storm like no other they have seen strikes, the teacher is badly injured, and the children come down from the hills to find their town is ruined--almost all the houses destroyed, the water polluted, beloved pets dead, and an enraged and injured bull loose in the streets. They cannot count on their parents coming back anytime soon--they know the road is almost certainly impassible, and the bridges down. When they find the body of the mill foreman, they know that there is no one to count on but themselves.
The story of their survival is not just the details of what they ate and drank (although I found this part very interesting); it is an extraordinarily thoughtful portrait of each child's reactions and realizations about themselves and each other. There are both girls and boys, and both genders are given chances to be smart and brave, as well as chances to fail.
Even though it was written a while ago, it doesn't seem dated. This is also a useful book geography-wise, in as much as some of us have trouble remember that Australia has forests as well as the Outback. Another favorite Australian author of mine who demonstrates this even more vividly is Nan Chauncy, who set many of her books (Tiger in the Bush, World's End Was Home) in deep forests of Tasmania, shown below, being logged.
Sadly, Hill's End is out of print right now. It was widely distributed in the US, however, and might still be in libraries.
Southall has won the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in 1966, 1968, 1971 and 1976, Picture book of the Year in 1969, the Carnegie Medal (UK) in 1972 and the Australian National Book Award for The Long Night Watch in 1983.
If anyone likes this genre, here's a list of other titles I just found, many of which I know and love (The Silver Sword, anyone?).